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The future shines bright for the Colorado Avalanche after an unexpected season

Colorado may not be in the Stanley Cup Finals, but they certainly turned heads this season.

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche raise their sticks in appreciation of fans after getting knocked out of the playoffs at the Pepsi Center.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Is this the right place to put my bio? Sorry, rookie mistake.

I’m sure you’ve scrolled back up to the byline now and thought, “Who is this sharp, witty man!?” But in case you haven’t, hello, this mastermind’s name is Patrick. I like the Avs. I also like writing. And now, with the help of MHH, I like writing about the Avs.

Anyway, this is my first article for the site. Hope you enjoy!

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but for the Colorado Avalanche, it sure seemed that way.

The Avs went from finishing dead last in the league with a mere 48 points in 2016-17, to clinching a playoff spot in 2017-18.

Virtually nobody could have predicted this year’s finish. Many probably scoffed at the idea of “Colorado” and “playoffs” in the same sentence.

ESPN’s Josh Cooper thought the Avalanche would stay in last place in the Central Division. Other predicitons looked grim, too:

“Maybe there are some new signs of life if Duchene sticks around and rebounds from a down 2016-17 campaign, but no one -- not even the Avs -- would be smart to anticipate much more than another year of fighting to stay out of the Central cellar,” Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports said.

Matt Duchene ended up getting traded, and despite being plagued with injuries, Colorado still managed to face the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, Colorado kissed their Stanley Cup dreams goodbye in Game 6 of the series.

Or did they?

For this season, sure they did. But from the results, the future looks incredibly bright for the Avs.

Although getting knocked out of the playoffs has to hurt, Colorado pushed the Preds to Game 6, only losing by more than a goal in two out of four losses. Not only did the Avs give the Presidents’ Trophy winners a run for their money, they were also incredibly young.

Sharing the same average age of 25 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Avs were the youngest team this season. Age may not matter in some people’s minds, but considering this year’s playoffs are dominated by older teams, it must mean something.

Only 4 of the 10 youngest teams made it into the playoffs this year, making up only a quarter of the playoff pool. The next youngest team to make the playoffs was the Philadelphia Flyers at an average age of 26.3, according to The Athletic.

To clinch their first playoff berth in four years with one of the youngest teams in the league is an achievement in and of itself. It’s a testament to the amount of chemistry this team has already, and how much more it should have in the future. Colorado also went on a 10-game winning streak (second-best in franchise history) back in late December, which is arguably a bigger achievement.

The offense is high-powered. Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon was on fire this year, posting 39 goals and 58 assists (5th overall in regular season points).

Led by MacKinnon and right-winger Mikko Rantanen, the Avs tallied 255 goals in the regular season (10th overall) and had a 21.9 Power Play Percentage (8th overall). Forwards Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot had promising debut seasons, combining for 31 goals and 35 assists. While some lines are weaker than others, there’s plenty of talent and potential on the roster. There’s even the prospect of seeing 19-year-old Igor Shvyryov play for the Avs over the next few years.

Defensively, there’s definitely more room for improvement, but still not many major issues that need to be addressed. The Avs allowed 236 goals against in the regular season (17th most overall) and had the fifth-worst Shots Allowed Per Game percentage (33.3), but their 83.3 Penalty Kill Percentage was fourth in the league.

Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson led the defense in regular season goals (23 combined), while Patrik Nemeth had an impressive +27 on the season. 23-year-old Nikita Zadorov put up 20 points with a +4 to end the regular season, tacking on 3 more points in the playoffs.

When the defense wasn’t getting the job done, the goalies picked up the slack. Semyon Varlamov had a .920 save percentage and Jonathan Bernier had a .913, with 2 shutouts apiece. While both goalies are solid, 22-year-old Spencer Martin looks like he’s developing into something great in the AHL (.893 save percentage with San Antonio Rampage this past season).

There’s tons of potential and talent already on the depth chart in Colorado. But the biggest component to the Avs future success came when key players weren’t there.

When MacKinnon went out with a shoulder injury for several weeks in late January, the Avs still scooped up 4 wins despite struggling a bit more. Varlamov and Bernier exchanged starting time throughout the season, playing great between the pipes while the other nursed injuries.

Varlamov and Johnson suffered injuries toward the end of the season, right as the Avs were fighting for a wildcard spot. It came down to the last game, but that 5-2 win over St. Louis to earn a playoff spot proved that Colorado is, first and foremost, a team.

The Avs, regardless of who’s on the ice and who’s on IR, rise to the occasion as they’ve shown multiple times this season. They aren’t in the playoffs anymore, they aren’t the best team in the league -- but likely sooner than later, they should be.